My benchmarks are old masters of art, film and music.
Here is an interesting piece of animation with some innovative ussage of 3D techniques which look like 2D:
This was the opening animation that Make created for the Minneapolis AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers). It is a short film designed to honor the companies who sponsored the event.Producer, Editor:Danny RobashkinDirector, Lead Animator, Lead Character Designer, Lead Storyboard Artist, Character Modeller/Rigger:Andrew ChesworthBackground Artist, Lead Designer, Lead Compositor/Motion Graphics Artist:Babe BakerStoryboard/Concept Artist, Background Modeller, Character Animator:Aaron QuistCharacter Animator:Kevin WisdomCharacter Animator:Tyson IbeleBackground Modeller, 3D Effects Animator:Aaron DabelowMusic:Horner MusicSound Design:Brand AudioThis project debuted on September 6, 2007, and was created in its entirety in about two months. It was derived from original characters and a story I had created in 2006, and was originally conceived as my follow-up short film to "Mortimer & Bracket".
To give you an idea of the process here's the Director's Andrew Cheswoth explanation on how he came up with the design:
"The character designs in AICP were my main focus regarding the graphic element, and beyond that it only extended as far as that I knew I wanted the look to feel old, with a lot of sepia tone and texture. Babe created the style frames with my characters and the textures I’d created for them, and he went ahead and came up with a phenomenal layered background style that combined graphic simplicity with elaborate texture and richness. The characters seemed to feel right at home.
Because of the short deadline, we knew the characters had to be graphic and (fairly) quick to animate, but I knew from the get-go I didn’t want it to feel like simply “cutout” animation. I wanted as much as possible for the characters to have the life, fluidity, and bounciness of quality hand-drawn and 3D animation.
The characters are indeed vector-flat, but they are 2D NURBs surfaces created in Maya and rigged with the standard 3D tools, so they can often bend and deform in ways cutout animation never could. Some characters, like the train, required some dimensionality to work for all of the shots, and are essentially half-3D, and can stand up to about 30 degrees of rotation."
As a Character Animator on this I have to say it's one of the best projects I've been involved with. Everyone involved did a great job!
I should mention our entire production time on this was about 2 months. When I look back at it, it's insane to think about how much work a small crew did in that time frame. In the end everyone stepped up and took responsibility for their role and got this thing done.
We have a lot more stuff coming down the pipeline here at MAKE and I'll be sure to post future projects on this forum.
Character design benchmarks I mostly found in good illustrations:
I would like to achieve the simplicity of characters as Mark Baker had in his The Farm Hill and Jolly Roger
...and visual style of Neil Gaiman books: